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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Much Spiritual Stress





Beloved of God,

Once again I take my pen to share with you the exercise of my heart. It is something clearly recognised that "our beloved brother Paul" put down for the rest of the dispensation, and in concentrated essence, the full revelation which he had, when he was at length cut off from his many journeyings and scattered personal ministries. The wisdom and sovereignty of the Lord was thus most definitely behind the final imprisonments of His servant.

While there are no "Pauls" among us now, and none of us would think for a moment that we come into his category, there is a factor contained in the above which does operate and apply so often where the Lord has servants and vessels related to His purpose, and we are more than well aware of it just now. Let us consider what evidently happened in the case of this "chosen vessel". At length, after much movement and a very great deal of preaching and teaching over a great area, and after many churches had come into being as the spontaneous issue of his message, he found himself physically limited to one house and room, and unable to move without a chain upon him. Moreover, he had information that many who owed much - if not everything - to him spiritually were disaffected toward him, and that many of the churches had turned from him. It was a depressing situation and might have forced him down into despair. But what really did happen? When the earth side of things, with all its time features and human factors seemed to be breaking down and becoming so disappointing and heart-breaking, the flood gates of the heavenly, eternal, and spiritual realities were opened. He was forced by the situation to get right back behind time and the earthlies to the eternal counsels of the Godhead; to the foreknowledge, the foreordaining, the predestinating, the eternal purpose concerning His Son, etc. As he gave himself up to this contemplation and committed it to parchments for the churches, it was his own salvation, and has been the priceless possession of the Church through many, many generations. It has also been the salvation of many a hard-pressed and sorely tried servant of Christ who also has known chains and imprisonment of some kind - spiritual if not literal. My point for the moment is this: the Lord allows or sovereignly ordains an experience of pressing in, hedging up, cutting off, and intense spiritual stress which has one inclusive object, but effects various things.

Much teaching has been given. Now it seems to be failing where it has been ministered, and there appears to be a great deal of contradiction. Its value, and perhaps even its truth, seem to be questioned by the inconsistencies which appear. This, with much more of the same kind of thing, drives the servant of God down to his foundations, causes heart-searching as to his motives, tests him as to the faithfulness of God, and in many ways brings him flat up against his position. This is all very salutary. He will see what the weakness and defects have been, and can adjust. If his is a true position, he will be confirmed, but it will be without bigotry, for he is broken and emptied. When all the incidental matters are dealt with by the fires of his soul-searching situation, the ultimate intention of the Lord will be reached - a clearer, fuller, and more fruitful revelation. From the parts he will have come to the whole: from the circumference to the centre: from the incidental to the eternal: from the passing features to the abiding reality.

May I ask you, Does it not seem that something like this is happening today? Of course, I cannot tell how true this is with regard to America, but I know it is very true for many servants and instrumentalities of God in Europe and the East. For ourselves it is intensely true, and speaking personally, I can only say that the past four years have been the most agonising years of my life, in which bottom seems to have been touched very many times.

But what is it unto? What is the counterpart of Paul's reaction and concentrated message? I can only speak in the dawn as yet. Sometimes from my window I look out over the mountains and water before daybreak and see those first faint rays of light which creep across the sky long before the sun can be discerned. It is like that, but the strong portent of the rays to my own heart is definitely this: I believe that there is a new movement of God on the near horizon. It is not a movement which can be put into sectional, departmental, or phasial terms, such as "revival", evangelistic, doctrine, missionary, or reform. But rather is it a movement to Christ. I am reminded as I write that in the biography of Dr. A. B. Simpson, of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, there are two fragments. One writer said of Dr. Simpson that "he lived before his time". Then Dr. Simpson himself said, "The great movement of today, the greatest movement of the Church's history is a CHRIST MOVEMENT: a revealing in our day, with a definiteness never before so real, of the person of the living Christ as the centre of our spiritual life, the source of our sanctification, the fountain of our physical life - the Prince-Leader of our work, the glorious coming King..."

I link the two statements because it is evident that that "Movement" did not take place in an adequate way in the life-time of Dr. Simpson, but he saw the vision and "lived before his time". Does not everything point to the necessity and possibility of such a movement coming now? There is no hope for the unity of Christians on this earth until they forsake all other ground than Christ. There - on that ground alone - is the strength needed by the Church to recover her authority and testimony. Oh, everything needed is there! It is a tremendous challenge and test, and may cost much, but its very value involves this. Oh, for a new and adequate apprehension of the immense significance of Christ Himself! Let us pray much that this movement may begin in our hearts, and the hearts of the Lord's people everywhere. Let us ask for the necessary resultant grace to move from all other ground, and for the wisdom to avoid making Christ into a party. Only a new and mighty vision of Him can do with Christians what it did in Paul's case; i.e., emancipate from religious prejudice, suspicion, and fear, as well as from a merely earthly system of Christianity. No man can initiate such a movement; it must be by the Holy Spirit: but we can see the need, proclaim it, and urge to pray that it may quietly but deeply arise in many hearts. Much is breaking down; much is being suspended. The war has created conditions both negative and positive which would foster and point to a new place for Christ Himself; and the manifest development of Antichrist - the domination of the world by super-men and eventually man, is not the least sign that God's Christ must come far more to the fore. The peace will bring greater problems and difficulties than the war has done, and no tradition will be equal to the situation. Christ alone will be sufficient, and the measure of Christ in believers will determine the measure of their endurance and overcoming.

Warmest greetings to you all, in Him.

Yours, that He may fill all things,
T. AUSTIN-SPARKS

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